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CSULB: Journalism & Public Relations Day


On April 3rd, I received an e-mail stating I was invited to attend the California State University, Long Beach Journalism and Public Relations Day for students, alumni and friends on April 13th.

I graduated from CSULB in 2012, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Minor in Africana Studies.

On April 5th, I decided that I was going to attend and signed up to reserve a spot for the mentoring and networking session that was going to be offered. I chose to meet with Lisa Mastramico, award-winning producer and her production experience began at Community TV in Santa Cruz, CA where she also served on the board of directors. Mastramico currently serves on the communications faculty at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Chapter 1: Mentorship from Lisa Mastramico

I was introduced to Mastramico and when we sat down I gave her one of my business cards, and I told her I’m an inspirational speaker and two-time cancer survivor. I told her about my history with the disease which started when I had knee cancer at 14 years old, and I had to get a knee replacement. The cancer came back when I was 17 years old in the same knee, and I had to get my right leg amputated. Now I’m a hip amputee and could only walk with a prosthetic leg.

I told her I chose to speak about my experience with cancer because it’s a topic that doesn’t get a lot of attention and I want to fill that void for the teenagers and young adults.

While telling her about my story, I asked if it was ok to show her pictures of me when I was battling cancer. While she was looking at the pictures, I told her that I also volunteer at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital (the same hospital where I did my chemotherapy treatment from 1999-2000 and 2002-2003), and I explained I give the children and teenager cancer patients hope because I’m an example of a cancer survivor.

I quickly transitioned into talking about my connection with the inFAMOUS videogame franchise and superhero Cole MacGrath. Mastramico wasn’t familiar with inFAMOUS, and wanted to know the backstory of why the game means so much to me. Then I showed her the Darryl and Cole Comparison picture:

I told her Cole is an ordinary bike messenger, and while delivering a package it exploded leaving him at the center, alive, but changed and able to control electricity. I said Cole was forced to control electricity, just like I was forced to have knee cancer twice as a teenager.

I said the game also has a karma system and Cole has a choice of being a superhero or supervillain. Throughout the game, Cole has to make choices to be the city’s savior, or destroy what is left of it. I explained this helped me decide to think positive and do something to help myself; or stay in a dark in depressing place because I didn’t have control of my situation.

I feel what I’ve been through is a superhero story and it made since to compare what I’ve been through to my favorite superhero: Cole MacGrath.

Mastramico asked about my business card and the meaning behind my company name and tagline. I told her “CalmandStrong” means I have a calming personality, and I’m strong because of the adversities I was able to overcome. My tagline “Nothing is More Powerful Than a Made up Mind” fits perfectly with my story and Cole’s because Cole had to make choices and follow through on them, and I had to make choices during my life which got me to where I am today.

I also said I have a PowerPoint Presentation where I have music embedded from my favorite music artists Nas and The Pharcyde. I explained I was listening to Nas while in the hospital at 14 years old, and his lyrics in one of his songs helped me to believe I could defeat cancer. I found out about The Pharcyde during the time I transferred to CSULB in 2008, and one of their songs helped me believe that it’s ok to be myself, and to not keep running away from problems.

After giving Mastramico a complete overview of what I want to accomplish, she asked me a few questions. Like what was the turning point in my life which made me decide to become an inspirational speaker and what do I want people to walk away with after hearing my speeches.

I said after graduating from CSULB in 2012, I landed my first job as an Associate Investigator with United States Investigative Services (USIS) in Las Vegas. I resigned due to not understanding the position thoroughly and it took a toll on my physical disability. I met my Life Coach who encouraged me to become an inspirational speaker because he said I have a unique story to talk about.

I told her I made a PowerPoint Presentation and felt something was missing, and it was inFAMOUS. I explained that I was nervous approaching my Life Coach with my new PowerPoint because I was talking about my connection with a video game character. It turned out that he liked how creative I was connecting my experiences and realities of being a two-time cancer survivor and hip amputee to the digital world of the inFAMOUS videogame franchise and superhero Cole MacGrath.

I also said I became an inspirational speaker to give people hope. My core audience is teenagers and young adults, but I talk about a many subjects that happened or inspired me within my life that many people could relate to. For example, I talk about my experience with cancer and chemotherapy, my connection with inFAMOUS and Cole, dealing with becoming a hip amputee, sports (basketball) and music from Nas and The Pharcyde help tell my story.

Mastramico was very encouraging and gave me advice about focusing my story to tailor specific groups of people. For instance, if I were to speak at the Elks Club, I could start by talking about my experience with cancer, then focus on how I made the junior varsity basketball team in high school. I told her when people ask me how did I lose my leg, they always assume that I was in the military. She also said I could talk to people who had to get a limb amputated.

I told her I made some progress last year, but it seems like every time I take three steps forward, I take two steps backwards. About 95% of people I talked to about connecting my experience with cancer to inFAMOUS and Cole has gotten it instantly, and Mastramico is now a part of that group.

From Mastramcio’s biography, I liked how she is passionate about connecting people, places, ideas and concepts through storytelling, information and education. Storytelling through concepts and ideas is what I’m doing through my inspirational speeches. She said I have so much information to talk about because a lot has happened to me in such a short amount of time. She also explained that she will do what she can to help me, and that I have something special on my hands.

Mastramico stated she learned a lot from me in the 20 minutes we talked together, and she said the way I described my story was like a great documentary.

Chapter 2: Social Media and Storytelling

There was also a Social Media and Storytelling panel from professionals.

Social Media Panel:

  • Dominic Bonvissuto, editor at The MMQB and founder of Jeans and Ties.

  • April Grohmann DeWitt, senior manager, social marketing at The Honest Company.

  • Rachel Matos, social media director at We All Grow Latina Network.

  • Amy Turman, senior manager social media at Trailer Park.

  • Annie Z. Yu, audience engagement editor at the Los Angeles Times.

From the panel, I learned that how I present myself online on social media says a lot to possible employers. They also said being able to write and create something on your own is also a great way to get noticed. It is important to immerse yourself into a subject because it shows that you have passion and an expert on the subject.

While building a personal brand, it is important to be proactive, because there are always people looking for those who are driven and inspirational.

Storytelling Panel:

  • Jesus Ayala, producer ABC News

  • Anh Do, reporter at the Los Angeles Times

  • Jaweed Kaleem, reporter at the Los Angeles Times

  • Teri Sforza, founder the OC Watchdog

From this panel, they talked about doing what resonates with you, and break out of the box that you put yourself in. When writing stories, make sure they are conversational and treat the audience with respect.

What resonated the most with me during this panel was that they encouraged stories that are unusual and upbeat and said to focus on that because it is special.

During both panels, I learned that I’ve been doing all the right things, because almost everything the panelists talked about I’ve been doing already.

For instance, I only use social media to build my brand, “CalmandStrong.” I created my brand when I realized my calling was to be an inspirational speaker, I immersed myself into my brand because it’s my way of helping people who have been through similar situations and my story is unusual, but special because I can help others with my inspirational story.

* To check out my Biography, click here:

* To check out my Connection with inFAMOUS and Cole MacGrath, click here:

* To check out my Speeches and PowerPoint Presentations, click here:

* To check out the three Hip-Hop Artists who helped me believe Nothing is More Powerful Than a Made up Mind, click here:

* I came across three of my journalism professors while at Journalism Day, and they remembered me. It has been five years since I was last on campus and I was surprised that they recognized me.

* Next Wednesday, April 19th, I’m going to perform my fifth speech for Toastmasters at CSUSB from the second advanced manuals (15th speech overall), and it’s going to be about the history of Hip-Hop group The Pharcyde. Be on the lookout for a new speech video next week.


I don’t own any content from the image displayed from inFAMOUS. All content is copyright to their respective owners.

No Copyright Intended. All image content is copyright to their respective owners. All content is property of Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), developed by Sucker Punch Productions.

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